What brought about the need?

The need for fire-safe cigarettes began with a tragic 1929 incident, a cigarette-ignited fire in Lowell, Massachusetts, which led U.S. Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers to seek safer cigarette development. Her call to action led to a pivotal moment in 1932, when the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), embarked on a mission to develop a “self-snubbing” cigarette, a potentially life-saving innovation. The Boston Herald American covered this groundbreaking development, highlighting three years of rigorous research that led to this innovation. NBS even recommended that cigarette manufacturers embrace the idea, but, unfortunately, none did.

Making Change Happen

In 1973, the United States Congress established the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to protect the public from hazardous products. Tobacco products were excluded from CPSC’s jurisdiction. CPSC regulated the flammability of various products, including mattresses, and worked with furniture manufacturers to establish voluntary flammability standards for upholstered furniture, which later became mandatory requirements.

In 1978, burn survivor Andrew McGuire initiated a grassroots campaign to prevent house fires caused by cigarettes, resulting in significant developments, including federal Fire-Safe Cigarette (FSC) legislation in 1979. To counteract impending legislation, the U.S. Tobacco Institute launched a fire prevention education program.

Over the years, starting from 1982, numerous lawsuits related to cigarette-ignited fires have surfaced, some resulting in significant settlements, such as a $2 million settlement for a child injured in a car fire allegedly caused by a cigarette. In 1984, the Cigarette Safety Act funded a comprehensive three-year study by NIST. This study laid the foundation for the development of a standardized flammability test method for cigarettes. Legislative activities continued at the state and federal levels, with McGuire and his colleagues tirelessly advocating for cigarette fire prevention.

The U.S. Fire Safe Cigarette Act of 1990 focused on further NIST research and the interaction between burning cigarettes and soft furnishings. Federal efforts faced challenges due to a preference for free markets and over-regulation.

The momentum toward safer cigarettes gained traction in 2000, when New York became the first state to pass a law requiring the sale of less fire-prone cigarettes, with several other states subsequently following suit. Andrew McGuire’s campaign, combined with the support of the National Fire Protection Association, further fueled this grassroots movement.

State Mandates and the “FSC” Label

All states in the U.S. have enacted laws requiring cigarettes to adhere to fire standards for self-extinguishing when not actively being smoked. These laws rely on a prescribed laboratory test method developed by ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials). Cigarettes meeting these requirements are known as Fire Standards Compliant (FSC) cigarettes.

It’s crucial to remember:

  • FSC cigarettes are not entirely “fire-safe”; anything that burns carelessly can cause a fire.
  • They should be handled and disposed of properly, just like any other cigarette.
  • Packs of FSC cigarettes are labeled with the term “FSC” above the UPC.

Check out the second half of our FSC series to find out how McKinney can help you remain fire-safe compliant.

Additional Resources

McKinney Specialty Labs: Ignition Propensity